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Mercy Abang: The Untold Stories of the Killing of Farmers in Niger State

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In Sabondaga, a small village of predominantly farmers in Niger State, many of the locals are still counting their losses following the invasion of Fulani Herdsmen. The attacks have continued even as concerns remain unabated over the possibility of unprecedented hunger and famine in Nigeria as a result of drought, conflicts and economic instability.

One of them is 55-year old yam farmer, Yusuf Dangwari who spoke to me with his cap in his hand and tears in his eyes. “The herdsmen attacked us on Tuesday, 10th January 2017 at about 11:am”, he started, pausing to cry profusely as we inspected the farm. “We were helpless. As you can see, they moved from one yam barn to another burning all we have worked for over the years – about 500 million Naira gone.”

Sabondaga community of about 20,000 people has been turned into a ghost town – the villagers have all fled for their lives – hunted by the fear of getting killed should they return.

The attacks by migrant herdsmen on indigenous farmers has gone on unabated for decades but has heightened within the last two years, with the nomads wrecking havoc from Enugu state to Southern Kaduna region and Agatu community in Benue State.

Dangwari was inconsolable. “This is the height of man’s inhumanity to man, where do I start from? Who will even give me the seedlings to start all over?”

At some point again in the course of this inspection, he paused, stopped talking, sat on the debris and screamed; his voice reverberated across the empty walls and into the empty village, a testimony to the absence of his fellow villagers who had all fled following the invasion.

A recent study by a United States-based group, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network has revealed that already people in 45 countries were unable to feed themselves largely because of different forms of disasters and economic crises.

The study by FEWS NET shows that, “the combined magnitude, severity and geographic scope of anticipated emergency food assistance needs during 2017 are unprecedented in recent decades and about 70 million people were in need of food aid”.

For Nigeria, however, with a seven-year insurgency by the Boko Haram group in the North-East leading to famine in the area in 2016, and an ongoing Economic recession that appears to coexist with inflation, where cost of items have continued to go up – Mamman Dawu, another middle aged farmer says “with the magnitude of grains, crops, yams burnt during the attack – we will not have food items to take to the market”.

For the Gbagy/Gbari people of Niger State, farming has been their major occupation for centuries, “this attack will take a long time to heal”, said Dauda Musa, also a farmer. “The herdsmen say they want to take over our land and chase us out – but we will rather die than submit to this level of bullying.”

But the crops have not been the only losses. 62-year old Alhaji Isa Dogo said it wasn’t only the crops that was destroyed, “On the 17th of January 2017, when the herdsmen invaded us in Barkuta Nuwakobi village along Garuta road – they stole 300 of our cows, killed our brother, Ibrahim Saidu who confronted them – he was slaughtered”.

“In jubilation, they attacked our community, burning all our people labour for, armed with cutlass and AK47 riffles – destroying all they could set their eyes on” Alhaji Dogo claims Policemen, civil defence officials as villagers were all slaughtered in the process.

In November 2015, Global Terrorism Index named Nigeria’s Fulani militant as fourth deadliest terror group in the world.

The report revealed that the “little-known group, formed of individuals from the semi-nomadic pastoral ethnic group Fula people existing across several West African nations, has seen a dramatic escalation of its activities in the past year”.

A 35- year old Fulani who spoke in his native Fufulde language told this reporter through a local interpreter that the invasion of the community was to retaliate the killing of a Fulani by the community. The man who stays at the IDP Camp provided for only the Fulanis by General Abdulsalami Abubakar (a farm land settlement) insisted that villagers often attack his people too and the stories go unreported but no Fulani man will forgive the killing of another Fulani”.

Only recently, a lawmaker from Niger East Senatorial district, Senator David Umaru, claimed that cattle rustlers and armed bandits murdered over 400 people across various communities in the zone in 2016.

Senator Umaru, told reporters in Minna that several livestock including cows were rustled, while women and girls were abducted and raped by the marauders who also burnt houses and other property.

He listed some of the communities to include Kaure, Kusasun, Mwaignu, Sabon Gida, Kwaki, Ajata, Kushaka, Bagna, Bassa/Kukoki, Allawa in Shiroro and Rafi local government areas.

Dangwari who lost all he had is seeking refuge in Suleja (a community kilometres away from Abuja, the capital city) with his paternal uncle – he hopes to get a capital to start life in the city and never go back to his village.

Mercy Abang is a Journalist – Media Fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy..

12 Comments

  1. Mrs chidukane

    January 30, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    The silence is indeed deafening.

    • Niger delta babe

      January 31, 2017 at 7:07 am

      Buhari I’d not in control. It’s time to impeach him. Things are getting out of hand and the marauders are getting bolder by the minute. With each village they decimate, they will become bolder. This must stop. They are not the only ones who can practice an eye for an eye.

  2. Rrrrrrr

    January 30, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    President Buhari this is the time to act. We are waiting. At this point the military should be deployed to protect lives and properties. That is what a president would do. Round the clock surveillance of the border towns too

  3. The Real Oma

    January 30, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    And all these happen in this Nigeria and we never hear of them and then some people will be opening their mouth and be defending nonsense!
    So painful, so infuriating.

  4. NG

    January 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Buhari will never act. Many Christians will condemn their own who speak out as befitting of the times we are in. The idea is to cleanse the region of as many Christian communities as possible and change the demographics.

    Nigerians voted in a religious and ethnic bigot. You sowed the wind and now you are reaping a huge whirlwind. Unfortunately, many of us innocents are forced to watch helplessly with the rest of you.

    Only God can help and thankfully, the church is awakening.

  5. nwa nna

    January 30, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    So unfortunate to read what’s taking place.. I remember watching a TV interview given by interior minister Gen Danbazzua, he was asked what was being done to immediately curb & address the incessant killings by the Fulani hersdsmen.. His answer left me very disturbed, he talked about some BS long term approach to addressing the problem and the interviewer asked him again, that while it was good to have a long term approach their was still a need for immediate action by the FGN… In a nutshell, Danbazzua had zero sense of urgency!!!
    The same lack of sense of urgency being shown by PMB in addressing this same issue..
    The boldness of these attacks have grown because of the lackadaisical attitude of the present administration in addressing this issue swiftly and decisively..

  6. Ada

    January 30, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    God of Mercy, kindly save us from the clinching fist of this evil demons called Fulani herdsmen, they are terrorists and they should not be condoned or treated with kids glove, they are everywhere, even in my village @ anambra state, in a short time they would bring their cows and invade people’s farm and in retaliation the farmers may get angry and kill the cows, imagine what they will do to my poor villagers, I was so shocked when I visited and was told that a man travelled out of the country and left his family home and his fulani security man decided to bring his family to stay in his desserted house, I was scared, I prayed for my old grandmother and family members, we need to take a stand against this terrorist, if they have being listed as terrorists, like alkaeda, Boko Haram and isis, then the dss has no case against apostle Suleiman.

  7. Same Girl

    January 30, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I wonder why someone will want to take over some else property, Fulani pple need to call them selves to other and stop these killings. Kilode
    President Buhari should speak out NOW and caution his pple, he needs to stop looking the the way and pretending as if Niger Delta Militants are our only problem.
    Above all we all need to be our brothers keepers lets live in peace.

  8. tunmi

    January 30, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    This is being left unchecked and it will only get worse. Buhari, the military is needed here.

  9. meelikey

    January 30, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I remember when even the non Hausa speaking peeps were shouting “Sai Baba” I just siddon dey laugh cos they lack information . You want a Fulani man to condemn the acts of his fellow marauders???? Una go wait tire!

  10. nunulicious

    January 31, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Maybe they should start using drones to kill these supposed Fulani herdsmen.

  11. Niger delta babe

    January 31, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Maybe the people should invest in weapons of war. That is what happens when you get sick and tired of being a sitting duck. You arm yourself to the teeth, train your kids to shoot and kill any motherboard thathe comes for your live. It’s time to offer self dense training to Nigerian villagers.

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